Huffpost Politics

Here's What Corporate America Really Thinks About You

Posted: Updated:
ACXIOM
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Print

If you are an American human being today, you probably labor under the illusion of having a self, as Rust Cohle put it, but what you really are is a sadly predictable agglomeration of demographic traits and buying habits.

This is just how the world works, according to our many "data brokers," who pretty much know everything. These are companies that tirelessly scour the Internet, government records and anyplace else we might leave a mark on this mortal coil and then use the information they glean to help companies sell crap to you. You can learn more about them in a new Federal Trade Commission report, "Data Brokers: A Call For Transparency And Accountability."

One of the most interesting/depressing things about the report is how these companies, which have terrible corporate-speak names like Acxiom, Corelogic and Datalogix, cram people into stereotype buckets to make their crap-selling easier.

"While some of these segments seem innocuous, others rely on characteristics, such as ethnicity, income level, and education level, which seem more sensitive and may be disconcerting," the FTC wrote in the report.

We've pulled together some of the best/worst of these stereotype buckets, as described by the FTC and/or the data brokers themselves. If you don't see yourself stereotyped adequately in this list, Acxiom has a handy online widget that lets you figure out which cluster you belong to. Are you a "Shooting Star" or a less-stellar "Urban Tenant"? Are you a member of "Tots & Toys" or are you "Raisin' Grandkids," which is a play on how old people look like raisins, maybe?

Here are a few more possibilities:

1. Urban Scramble: "a high concentration of Latino and African-American consumers with low incomes"

2. Thrifty Elders: "singles in their late 60s and early 70s in 'one of the lowest income clusters'"

3. Rural Everlasting: "single men and women over the age of 66 with 'low educational attainment and low net worths'"

4. Truckin' & Stylin': People who are "in their early thirties to mid-forties and live in rural towns. Though, on average, they earn middle incomes, they rank below average when compared to the nation, and drop near the bottom of the list...for net worth."

5. Still Truckin': The "Truckin' & Stylin' crowd in their golden years, part of a broader cluster known as "Mature Rustics"

6. Married Sophisticates: "thirty-something couples in the 'upper-middle class...with no children.'"

7. Resolute Renters: "consumers in their 30s and 40s, single with no children, that are 'relatively mobile renters and on the lower rungs of income and net worth'"

8. Metro Parents: "consumers, primarily in high school or vocationally educated, handling single parenthood and the stresses of urban life on a small budget"

9. Downtown Dwellers: "'lower-income, single, downtown-metro dwellers' that are 'upper-middle-aged' and with a 'high-school' or 'vocational/technical' degree working to 'make ends meet with low-wage clerical or service jobs'"

10. Financially Challenged: "consumers 'in the prime working years of their lives...including many single parents struggl[ing] with some of the lowest incomes and little accumulation of wealth.' These consumers are 'not particularly loyal to any one financial institution, they feel uncomfortable borrowing money and believe they are better off having what they want to day as they never know what tomorrow will bring.'"

There are even special Hispanic categories, including:

Timeless Traditions: "'immigrants, many of retirement age, who have been in the country for 10 or more years,' 'speak some English but generally prefer Spanish' with 'lower than average' incomes"

Latchkey Leasers: "consumers with 'an average age of 52,' 'predominantly single renters living in multiple unit dwellings.' This group tends to be 'bicultural and bilingual,' and 'they earn some of the lower incomes and have relatively little net worth accrued at this point in their lives.'"

A lot of these names come from data broker Acxiom, which has divided the entire country into 70 different "clusters." It's all part of a "life stage segmentation system" called PersonicX, which helps companies with their crap-marketing while also helping you foster your sense of alienation and despair.

Acxiom also helpfully gives you a way to find out and edit what, exactly, it knows about you personally.

You'll just need to create an account and give Acxiom a bunch of data about yourself, including your address, birthday and the last four digits of your Social Security Number. Don't worry, it's all just to confirm your identity. These data brokers already got all of this information on you a long time ago, because time is a flat circle and death invented time to grow the data that it would cull.

Around the Web

Data Brokers | American Civil Liberties Union

Online data brokers know you -- surprisingly well - San Jose ...

'X-tra Needy' and 'American Royalty': The stereotypes credit card ...

Acxiom, the Quiet Giant of Consumer Database Marketing ...

The Tidy Boxes Data Brokers Stick Us In: Are You A Timeless Elder ...